A 35 year old female named Rae comes to the clinic one day with complaints of multiple verrucous skin lesions that have appeared over the anogenital region. Upon further questioning, Rae tells you that her husband also developed the same lesions over the same region a few weeks ago, but hasn’t seeked medical attention. On physical examination, you notice that the skin lesions are soft and flesh-colored, and have a unique cauliflower-like appearance. You decide to perform a biopsy of the lesion, which reveals the presence of multiple vacuolated epithelial cells with enlarged, irregular nuclei.
A few days later, a 30 year old male named Mark comes to the clinic concerned about a painful ulcer that recently developed in his genital region. Upon further questioning, he mentions that he’s sexually active, but doesn’t always use protection. On examination of the genital region, you notice that the ulcer is covered by exudate; in addition, Mark has inguinal lymphadenopathy, which is tender. You obtain a sample of the exudate and order a gram staining, which shows gram-negative, rod-shaped bacteria arranged in parallel strands.
Now, based on the initial presentation, Rae has warts, while Mark has ulcers, and both cases seem to be caused by a sexually transmitted infection, or STI for short.
STIs are mainly transmitted from person to person during sexual contact through body fluids, such as vaginal secretions, semen, or blood. The ones most at risk of contracting an STI are sexually active individuals, particularly those who have unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners. But, it’s important to note that sexually transmitted infections can also be transmitted via contact with skin or mucous membranes, including eyes, mouth, throat, and anus. And that’s a high yield fact!
Now, a common STI that may cause warts, called condylomata acuminata, is caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV.
On the other hand, STIs that may cause ulcers include genital herpes, caused by herpes simplex virus, or HSV; syphilis caused by Treponema Pallidum; lymphogranuloma venereum, which is caused Chlamydia Trachomatis; granuloma inguinale caused by Klebsiella granulomatis; and chancroid, which is caused by Haemophilus ducreyi.